Administration Drug Control Strategy Raises Civil Liberties Concerns, Says ACLU

May 12, 2010 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) today announced its 2010 national drug control strategy. The strategy, while increasing resources for treatment and prevention, raises concerns by continuing the government’s focus on enforcement of current policies that are ineffective, costly and potentially threatening to civil liberties.

The ONDCP is a component of the Executive Office of the President that establishes drug policy, strategy and priorities as set by the office of the president. The strategy directs the country’s anti-drug efforts and establishes a program, a budget and guidelines for cooperation among federal, state and local entities.

The American Civil Liberties Union welcomes the increased emphasis on prevention and treatment in the ONDCP’s strategy but believes it should account for the civil liberties and fiscal costs resulting from current enforcement practices.

The following can be attributed to Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office:

“The ONDCP’s commitment of both money and support to programs like needle exchange initiatives is critical as we cannot afford the civil liberties and fiscal consequences of continuing to overzealously lock up minor drug offenders while common sense solutions remain underfunded. Though we are encouraged by the emphasis on evidence-based prevention and treatment in the ONDCP strategy, continuing the practice of targeting small-time drug offenders rather than working to curb drug use will only serve to increase incarceration and divide our communities.

“In addition to recommendations by the ONDCP, there are important bills currently pending in Congress that would address drug policy by reducing the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine and creating a national criminal justice commission to reassess our broken system. Congress must a play a role alongside the ONDCP in executing this strategy and recalibrating our failed drug policies.”

The following can be attributed to Jay Rorty, Director of the ACLU Drug Law Reform Project:

“The Obama administration deserves credit for vocalizing a commitment to moving away from the failed and unconstitutional policies that have defined America’s war on drugs. But any strategy aimed at reversing the mistakes of the drug war must both fund treatment and ensure that enforcement efforts preserve civil rights, and ONDCP’s budget and strategy do neither. Attempting to reduce demand by continuing to focus on the search, arrest and conviction of street sellers rather than importers will further erode the Fourth Amendment, exacerbate the crippling financial effects of our nation’s addiction to mass incarceration and is no substitute for an effective public health-based strategy that promotes public safety while preserving communities’ constitutional rights.”

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